Baseball Preview: Pacific Pitching

Pacific was easily the worst hitting team in the Big West in 2007 and 2008 (averaging 4.5 runs per game and hitting .265 two years ago) but most of the same players hit .322 (.332 in Big West games) and averaged seven runs per game, which is a credit to the coaching of Ed Sprague and assistant coach Don Barbara in his first year at Pacific.

The Tigers have continued to hit well and are batting .329 (2nd in the conf) and averaging 6.5 runs per game (4th in the conf), although those numbers have tailed off during the conference season with Pacific hitting .301 and averaging 4.8 runs per game in Big West games with the Tigers scoring four runs or less in 7 of 12 conf games.  Pacific doesn’t score their runs by powering up with the long ball (7th in the Big West with 21 HR’s) but puts pressure on the other team by making contact and hitting line drives from gap to gap (.456 SLG – 4th in the conf).  Their game on Wednesday against Santa Clara is a prime example of this type of offense because the Tigers had 20 hits in a 12-7 win and 19 of them were singles.  Pacific was at the bottom of the Big West in 2009 when it came to playing little ball with bunting and stealing but this year they are 4th in the conf in SAC bunts and 5th in SB’s.  The Tigers are only 6-14 on SB attempts in Big West games but have laid down 15 SAC bunts in 12 conf games.


Pacific’s improvement last year with their position players wasn’t limited to what they were doing at the plate.  The Tigers made 235 errors in the 2007 and 2008 seasons and cut that number down to 70 errors last year.  Pacific is fielding even better this season and they are 2nd in the Big West with a .973 FLD %.  The Tigers are very good defensively up the middle at C, 2B and SS (they have turned ten more double plays than anybody else in the Big West) and their corner infielders are also solid.  Their outfield defense has been average.

Infield

Pacific has the most experienced infield in the Big West.  The only starter that they lost from 2009 was 2nd team all-conf C Kurt Wideman and he is being replaced by a three year starter at C who redshirted last season.

C – SR #8 Joe Oliveira (RH – .315/.403/.408, 1-18-10; ’09 – medical redshirt) was 1st team all-conf in 2007 and honorable mention in 2008 but didn’t play last season due to an injured labrum in his shoulder.  He is in his fourth year as a starter and is in the school’s all-time top ten in career G, AB, H and R.  Oliveira got off to a bit of a slow start after taking last year off but has started hitting well with a .366 AVG in conf games and he drove in all four runs in their win last Sat against Northridge.  He usually bats 9th but has hit 6th in the last three games.  Oliveira doesn’t have much power but he is a very patient hitter (8th in the conf in BB) who handles the bat well and has six SAC’s.  He does a very good job at blocking pitches, allowing the second fewest WP/PB in the conf, and is solid at throwing out runners (26-40 SB’s).  Oliveira is 4-27 in his career against Fullerton.

1B – JR #32 Brian Martin (LH – .395/.449/.448, 0-27-0; ’09 - .333/.409/.484, 3-31-0) was a solid hitter in 2009 but has really taken off this year and is in the top ten in the conf in AVG (4th), H (2nd), 2B (5th) and OBP (8th).  He doesn’t have much power but is a consistent line drive hitting machine in the 3rd spot in the lineup.  Martin has gotten even hotter in Big West games and has gone 12-23 the last two weekends against Irvine and Northridge.  He is a good defensive player and one of the better 1B’s in the conf.  Martin was 4-12 at Fullerton last season and is 5-21 against the Titans in his career.

2B – JR #7 J.B. Brown (LH – .417/.434/.556, 4-24-3; ’09 – .378/.421/.550, 7-58-3) struggled as a FR both offensively and as a SS but was one of many Pacific players who showed drastic improvement in 2009, improving his AVG well over 100 points, and he was 2nd team all-conference after finishing in the top ten in AVG, SLG, H, RBI and TB.  As good as Brown was last season, he has been even better this year and is in the top ten in the conf in AVG (2nd), H (3rd) and TB (7th) while batting 5th.  The one thing that Brown doesn’t do well at the plate is show much patience because he has only walked three times.  Because he is a former SS, Brown has outstanding range at 2B and easily leads the other 2B’s in the conf in total chances.  He was 4-14 at Fullerton last season and is 5-21 against the Titans in his career.

SS – SR #2 Ben Gorang (RH – .286/.336/.345, 0-13-3; ’09 – .285/.338/.403, 3-28-3) is the glue that holds Pacific’s infield together and a big reason why they have shown major improvement on defense over the last two seasons.  Gorang doesn’t have much pop in his bat and isn’t patient at the plate with only 7 BB’s but usually makes contact and is 2nd on the team with 7 SAC’s.  He will usually hit 8th.  Gorang was hitting over .300 before conf play started but is only hitting .167 in Big West games.  He was 2-9 at Fullerton last season.

3B – SR #3 Mike Walker (LH – .353/.409/.569, 7-35-3; ’09 – .345/.424/.497, 6-34-3) was a productive hitter in 2009 and 2nd team all-conference but this year he has really taken off as the cleanup hitter and is in the top ten in the Big West in HR (4th), RBI (4th), TB (4th), R (5th), H (6th) and SLG (10th).  Walker is in the school’s all-time top ten in career HR, RBI, H, TB and 2B.  He struggled at Irvine two weeks ago (2-11) but bounced back against Northridge by going 5-11.  Walker has a big swing and leads the team and is 8th in the conf in K’s.  He has good range and leads all Big West 3B’s in total chances but has made nine errors.  Walker was 4-12 at Fullerton last season and is 5-22 against the Titans in his career.


Outfield

Pacific graduated two of their OF’s (including 2nd team all conf utility player Joey Centanni) so they have relied on a couple of reserves from last season to move into the lineup.

LF – SR #1 Matt Fuson (RH – .275/.322/.363, 1-14-3; ’09 – .196 in 46 AB’s) and JC transfer #24 Matthew Carvutto (RH – .275/.306/.362, 0-11-0) have split playing time in LF.  Neither has much pop in his bat but they have combined to provide decent RBI production.  Both have struggled in Big West play and combined to hit .167 (6-26) and whoever is in the lineup will likely be hitting 9th.

CF – Soph #11 Brett Christopher (Both – .313/.380/.503, 4-28-5; ’09 – .222 in 27 AB’s) barely played in 2009 with some solid players in front of him.  This year he has gotten a chance to contribute and has made the most of it.  Christopher is on a nine game hitting streak, will hit 2nd and does a good job of getting rallies going with his speed (tied for 2nd on the team in SB’s, 3rd in the conf in 3B’s) and by moving runners over and leads the conf with 8 SAC’s.  He has gotten hot during Big West games and is hitting .383 during conf play with a team leading 15 RBI.

RF – JR #15 Nick Longmire (RH – .280/.397/.448, 4-21-5; ’09 – .385/.448/.596, 6-37-8) is the best athlete and draft prospect on the team and played like it in 2009 when he was 1st team all-conf, hitting .423 in Big West games, and was in the top ten in the conf in AVG, SLG, OBP, R, H and TB.  Longmire is in the school’s all-time top ten in career R, H and TB.  He has struggled this season (2nd on the team with 26 K’s) and is not playing at nearly as high of a level but he has done a good job as the leadoff hitter of getting on base and leads the Big West in BB’s and is 7th in R’s.  Longmire has good speed and is tied for 2nd on the team in SB’s.  He was 6-14 at Fullerton last season and is 9-24 against the Titans in his career.

DH – FR #20 John Haberman (LH – .382/.400/.500, 0-22-0) was on fire to start the season and hitting well over .400 for most of the non-conf portion of the season before cooling off once Big West games started and is hitting only .260 in conf games.  He doesn’t have much patience at the plate with only four walks and doesn’t have much power but he is a contact making, line drive machine.  Haberman will usually hit 7th.